Five Questions for Pieter Wispelwey – appearing at Musica Viva Festival 2013
Limelight magazine interviewed cellist Pieter Wispelwey for their April edition. Pieter will be in Australia for three months, and his first engagements in that time are as Director of the AYO Chamber Players program and performances in the Musica Viva Festival and CountryWide program. Here’s what Pieter had to say:
Five Questions for Pieter Wispelwey
from Limelight magazine, April edition
1. On your Australian tour you’re playing a trio of Eastern European concertos – Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Lutoslawski – all commissioned by the great cellist Mstislav Rostropovich. Did you ever meet him, and what does his legacy mean to you?
I did meet him a few times; he was very memorable and extreme in his behaviour, socially. If there were 100 people in a room, he would hug them all and kiss them all. He was a legend of course, who commissioned such a huge humber of masterworks from the great composers of his time.
2. Having recently founded the ensemble Quartet-lab, what do you love about playing chamber music compared to the big orchestral works?
I’m so used to a lonely musical existence as a soloist that it’s inspiring and healthy to interact closely with other musicians. The two violinists in Quartet-lab, Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Pekka Kuusisto, are quite extreme, wild violinists. We live in three different countries so it’s still extremely fresh when we meet. I had never played regularly in a quartet before; this is an experience I was hoping would happen in my life at some point.
3. For your 50th birthday last year, you recorded Bach’s Cello Suites – also on your Australian itinerary – for the third time. Did you feel you had something new to say having reached the milestone of 50?
Playing Bach is like eating and drinking, you feel the appetite every day. I hope to feel the appetite for the rest of my life. If I didn’t feel hungry anymore then I would know something was seriously wrong. The 36 movements of the suites are character pieces, which means you can colour in those characters in unlimited ways… A character can have different experiences.
4. Do you play the suites on a modern or Baroque instrument?
For the 250th anniversary of Bach’s death, the year 2000, I started abandoning the Baroque cello for the first time during a tour of Australia when I couldn’t travel with both instruments. The majority of my performances are now on Baroque but in a few days’ time I will play three suites on the modern cello, the Guadagnini. It’s quite strange to switch between – they are different worlds.
5. What keeps you coming back to Australia so often – and for three months this time?
I came to Australia for the first time in 1992 and then from 1995 I started working with the ACO on a regular basis; very, very happy times. We’ve done two CD recordings and numerous tours. My honeymoon coincided with the Huntington Festival in 2000, and I’m bringing my family now for the third time.